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Plastic film recycling getting axed in Washington county

By: Jim Johnson

August 8, 2013

China’s decision to tighten import restrictions on recycled materials through Operation Green Fence is having a direct impact on one county in Washington State.

LeMay Inc., a unit of Waste Connections Inc. of The Woodlands, Texas, is doing away with plastic film recycling come Oct. 1 in Thurston County.

Plastic bags, wrap and strapping currently being collected for recycling will be diverted to landfill disposal Oct. 1, the company and county said.

LeMay currently is sitting on tons and tons of plastic film that it cannot get to market due to higher standards China is now requiring for incoming loads of material. Loads with more than 1.5 percent contamination of unacceptable materials are being rejected.

“It’s going to shake up the markets for quite a while, but in the long run it may mean we clean up our recyclables and can use American markets more, which are good things,” said Jeff Harwood, district manager for LeMay in Thurston County, in a statement.

LeMay is currently sitting on about 60 tons of plastic film that can’t find a recycling home and collects about 15 tons of the material each month, the company said.

“It’s unfortunate, but recycling only works when someone can create a new product from old materials,” said Terri Thomas, county solid waste reduction supervisor, in a statement. “Recycling is great — we don’t discourage it at all — but it’s not a magic cure. This is a good reminder about the importance of not generating waste in the first place.”

The company and county were unsuccessful in trying to find a different outlet for the tons of plastic now being stored, they said.

Waste Connections is one of the largest solid waste management companies in the country.